Panama papers politician's business boosted by government deals

Keith Schembri, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister of Malta, has come under fire for receiving kickbacks, as well as for retaining his shares in a company which has profited from various profitable government contracts. 

Daiva Repeckaite
Daiva Repeckaite NewsMavens, Malta
Panama papers politician's business boosted by government deals - NewsMavens
Keith Schembri. Twitter

Why this story matters:

Keith Schembri is one of the two officials implicated in the allegations which surfaced in the Panama Papers and were publicized by the slain journalist/blogger, Daphne Caruana Galizia. Now, as an international team follows up on her leads, the Times of Malta has reported receiving a new leak, which shows that despite stepping down from executive roles after becoming the prime minister's chief of staff, Schembri continues to hold shares in Berner, a prominent supplier in various government public procurement projects. 

Berner is co-owned by Mr Schembri and his business frontman, Malcolm Scerri Scerri, and has made over €40,000 from supplying equipment to government projects. Additionally, his other companies have made €81,000 from the various entities falling under the purview of the Transport and Infrastructure Ministry, the bulk of which came from Transport Malta. Schembri has also been accused of taking illegal kickbacks and is currently under magisterial inquiry. 

All of these findings only highlight the insufficiency of Malta to create oversight mechanisms that could prevent conflicts of interest and corruption.

Details from the story:

  • The Chief of Staff's wife, Josette Schembri, owns a company called Temple Concierge which up until a few months ago used to openly advertise a referral system for the passport-for-investment scheme. Schembri is subject to a magisterial inquiry after a leaked report by the State’s anti-money-laundering agency, which said there was suspicion he took a €100,000 kickback on passport sales from his accountant and friend, Brian Tonna.
  • The Sunday Times also adds that Schembri owns 99.9% of Berner shares, and that the company has repeatedly won public tenders for printing materials and services. Schembri responded that his business had been successful in landing similar assignments even before this administration.
  • Protesters have repeatedly called for Schembri's resignation.
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